Dear Friends and Family,
I love you, but you are making me crazy. You need to stop posting/sharing things on Facebook that contain misinformation, lies, half-truths in the realm of science (you may of course continue to do so with political and/or social information at least until I start getting upset about that). Bad science makes the world a terrible place, it makes me want to tear my hair out, and it makes me aggravated. You (the sharer of this information) are someone I value and respect so I do not want to shit all over your message, but I cannot stand for bad science. You are of course a free person, and as such can post whatever you like, just know that from now on, if you post bad science, I am going to reply in the comments with: BS. If you see the BS and would like a further explanation, I would be happy to provide one for you, in private or on the post, your preference. I do not want to shame anyone; I just want to alleviate my frustration with bad science.
Here are some tests you can apply before you post something.
Does this sound like bullshit?
This is the strongest test you can apply. Take a deep breath and think for a minute. Does this sound like BS. The food/product we eat/use every day are not going to kill us. Often these types of things start with a kernel of truth but have perverted and convoluted it to a degree that it becomes bullshit. Do you really think a major industry is trying to kill us or make us sick by putting “toxins” in their products (exclude alcohol tobacco and firearms from this group because their manufacturers already know that their products are dangerous)?
What is the source of this article/video/posting?
Is it TheOnion, well that is too easy. Did it come from someone trying to sell something? Can you figure out who posted it originally?
Is somebody trying to sell something?
A product that perhaps replaces the one purported to “dangerous”. Or maybe a product that makes that “dangerous” product safe or reduces its “toxins”. The internet is the new realm of the snakeoil salesmen. “Healthy” living advocates produce videos about the dangers of all kinds of foods and products to scare people into thinking that they need these new products.
Did you read the whole article, or just the catchy headline?
Catchy headlines work (the whole Buzzfeed business model is based on this), but if you delve deeper into almost every one of these types of articles you find nothing of substance just scary words and conjecture.
Does it use “scientific” language that is aimed at scaring you?
For example, words like: toxic, carcinogenic, toxin, unknown, specific “scary sounding” chemical names.
Does it use absolute language (total, zero, the most)?
Scientist know that language has meaning, so very rarely will a scientist or someone who is promoting good science use absolute language.
DOSE MAKES THE POISON!!!
Anything in high enough quantities can be toxic. Just because something is present, does not mean it is toxic, it is about the dose.
Does it claim cause and effect without giving any evidence?
The scientific evidence needed to support true cause and effect is significantly large. Often these types of post confuse correlation (things that follow a similar trend) and causation (one action causes another action). Causation is supported by strong evidence, evidence that should be easy to report even in a viral video.
Scientist post their important findings in scientific journals, they do not post them to the internet first.
Science on the internet is like the game Telephone; by the time it reaches a viral state it has be modified and manipulated so that the original message is no longer understandable.